“The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon” scribe Peter Morgan provides a no-fuss look at the contentious forty-four-day reign of Brian Clough as manager of the 1974 Leeds United soccer team. Using informative flashbacks, we’re shown that Clough, with the help of partner Peter Taylor, built the lowly Derby County into a contending squad, but how his mountainous ego and overwhelming inferiority complex threaten his career as well as professional, and personal, relationships. He’s earned the job of the country’s top team, but it’s a group of dirty players he loathes and tensions flare. Directed by Tom Hooper (HBO’s “John Adams”), “The Damned United” survives with the endlessly watchable Michael Sheen as Clough and Timothy Spall as Taylor, two men who work as one brain and suffer when separated. Morgan’s script, based on David Peace’s popular nonfiction novel, lightens the mood with weightless humor and an ending as sweet as pie. Easy, breezy cinema. 97m. (Tom Lynch)
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.